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Thursday Track of The Week: Royal Tailor’s Black & White

posted by Chad Bonham

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THURSDAY TRACK OF THE WEEK: Royal Tailor – Black & White (Provident)

When RNB/pop band All Together Separate departed the scene in 2003, it left a void within the Christian music industry. But in all honesty, it’s not like there was a huge glut of funk and soul driven artists littering the landscape anyway.

Perhaps that’s why new four-piece outfit Royal Tailor so prominently stands out. With a big sound that invokes hints of Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars, the multi-racial band stands poised to make a sizeable dent in the hit radio and even adult contemporary fan base despite years of underrepresentation.

The first thing that jumps out when listening to Royal Tailor’s debut Black & White is lead singer Tauren Wells crystal clear pipes and high-end vocal range. Wells will no doubt be compared to Michael Jackson especially in light of the uncanny influence present in the inspirational ballad “Gravity (Pulling Heaven Down).” But it’s his diverse vocal ability that ultimately jumps out of the speakers from his aggressive rock flair on “Death of Me” to the ridiculous high notes hit on “Freefall.”

Royal Tailor, however, is clearly no one-man show as Wells’ band mates display musical chops well beyond what is typical amongst a group of 24 and 25 year olds. Bass player Blake Hubbard, lead guitarist D.J. Cox and drummer Jarrod Ingram move seamlessly between multiple styles and sounds and in doing so avoid sounding like mere backups to Wells’ extraordinary singing skills.

Royal Tailor (L to R: DJ Cox, Tauren Wells, Blake Hubbard and Jarred Cox)

Once you get past the sheer ear candy presented throughout the 11-track album, it’s clear that Wells and company are also solid lyricists with a penchant for clever, yet poignant messages that not only provide hope for those dealing with every day struggles but also challenge listeners to more meaningful relationship with God.

The electronic/rock infused “Control” is a perfect example with biting references to the music of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry in an effort to point out how popular culture has distorted the true meaning of life with its skewed perception of love, acceptance and self worth.

There is absolutely no reason why Royal Tailor shouldn’t be the next big thing. With what seems to be the perfect mix of energy, creativity and sincere evangelistic message, Black & White has a legitimate chance to be one of the year’s best albums for Christian music fans and beyond.

To learn more about Royal Tailor, visit the band’s official website here.

Join Whole Notes tomorrow for an exclusive Beliefnet.com interview with Blindside guitarist Simon Grenehed.

Sanctus Real lead singer’s September solo release to benefit Whole Hearts Foundation

posted by Chad Bonham

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WORLD CHANGERS WEDNESDAY: Matt Hammitt of Sanctus Real

On September 13th, Matt Hammitt will release his first solo album Every Falling Tear on Sparrow Records. Hammitt, lead singer of Dove Award-winning and GRAMMY-nominated band Sanctus Real, will donate a portion of the proceeds from the album and its singles to the Whole Hearts Foundation. Hammitt created Whole Hearts to provide assistance for families of children affected by congenital heart defects.

Hammitt has a very personal connection to the issue. His son Bowen was born last September with a severe congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. This condition occurs when parts of the left side of the heart (i.e. mitral valve, left ventricle, aortic valve and aorta) do not completely develop.

During a process that has included two heart surgeries and an infection, Hammitt began writing songs to play at Bowen’s hospital bedside. He eventually recorded demos of the songs and handed them out to other families dealing with similar challenges at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Hammitt debuted the song “All of Me” on “ABC World News.” You can watch that video below:

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“Bowen’s doing great now,” Hammitt happily reported in a recent press release. “He’s making an incredible recovery and the fact that we still have him; we thank God for that every day. We’re eager to see what God continues to do through his life.”

For all the latest on Matt Hammitt and his family, click here.

And to keep up with Sanctus Real (including upcoming tour dates), check out the official band website here

Come back tomorrow for a review of Royal Tailor’s debut album Black and White.

Interview with Switchfoot’s Jerome Fontamillas

posted by Chad Bonham

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TUESDAY CONVERSATION: Jerome Fontamillas of Switchfoot

He’s not an original member of Switchfoot, but with 11 years now as the band’s keyboardist and occasional guitarist, Jerome Fontamillas has become a staple in the San Diego outfit’s unique pop/rock sound. But what many Switchfoot fans may not know is that Fontamillas has nearly another decade of music experience that preceded his time with Jon Foreman and company. In fact, he was part of such groundbreaking bands such as Mortal and Fold Zandura (both in which he teamed with Christian alternative pioneer Jyro Xhan).

Whole Notes caught up with Fontamillas recently to discuss, among other things, his transition from independent band to major label artist and back to being independent again. Read more of what this talented musician had to say:

Bonham: What kind of adjustment did you have to go through back when you went from playing in small independent bands to being a part of the Switchfoot phenomenon?

Switchfoot (from L to R): Chad Butler, Jerome Fontamillas, Jon Foreman, Tim Foreman and Drew Shirley

Fontamillas: It was actually really fun. When they asked me to join, they were just a three-piece band from San Diego too. My band and their band had played together at small clubs all around Southern California. When I joined, my band wasn’t playing and they needed a keyboard player. They’d become good friends of mine. So they said, “Why don’t you join us and we’ll see where it goes?” It wasn’t too long after that when a lot more people started coming out to the shows. The albums started doing really well. I was like, “Wow! I never knew it could get to this point.” Before it was like, “Hey, I’m playing with some friends of mine in some clubs.”

Bonham: Before joining Switchfoot, you had a lot of experience with independent production and small labels. Did that make it more comfortable for you to work on Hello Hurricane and the new record Vice Verses?

Fontamillas: It reminded me a lot of my roots and where I first started. We have this blank canvas and we can do whatever we want with it. It’s really exciting. It does remind me of back in the day when I first started out (in the music business).

Bonham: Was the process of working on a second independent record as invigorating and creatively charged as the first time?

Fontamillas: Now that we’re kind of adjusted to having our own recording studio in San Diego, we have a lot of say. Being an independent band, we do partner with Atlantic Records for distribution but the idea that we can go to our own studio means we have more control. We get to decide who is going to produce us and engineer it. It’s really cool to have control of a lot of that stuff because we are an independent band. The second time around doesn’t feel any different than the first time around. We have this place. Let’s do this. It’s like clockwork now. It’s a lot easier. It’s your lifestyle now.

Bonham: Is there an underlying message for the new album or is just a collection of songs you recorded at a certain point in time?

Fontamillas: We recorded 90 songs for Hello Hurricane and chose 12. On this album, we were a little more direct. We wanted to choose 12 to 15 songs and put everything into them. By doing that, we had a more focused recording. You’ll see that in the new album. We’re more focused and you can see that we put more time into each song. You could see that there’s more directness in this recording.

Bonham: How has the addition of both you and Drew Shirley (formerly of All Together Separate) changed Switchfoot’s sound and aided Jon Foreman’s role as the front man?

Fontamillas: That’s key. That’s why it was so good that Drew came in to the band. I was tied down to the keys and there was this idea that we really wanted Jon to connect and bring the audience in to the music. We needed to free him up a little bit more and so it’s so great to have Drew there to fill in (on guitar) when Jon goes out.

Bonham: That was pretty evident when I saw you play on the Third Day tour. I don’t think I’ve seen Jon connect with a crowd better than he did that night.

Fontamillas: Yeah. Yeah, it’s really special when he can connect with the audience. You can see when he does draw them into the music. You can see the audience’s eyes. It’s really cool to see.

Bonham: Of course, I’ve seen you smiling while playing for 50 people and I’ve seen that same smile when you’re playing for 5,000 people. It doesn’t seem to matter to you.

Fontamillas: (Laughs) You know, I really love doing music. I’ve been doing it now for almost 20 years. I can’t believe I’m able to do this. It’s just a blessing. God’s been really good.

Bonham: I always felt like your previous bands, especially Fold Zandura, were too creatively advanced at the time for the Christian music industry. Would you agree with that?

Fontamillas: I felt that too, but the idea that you’re pushing your limits creatively, that’s more important to me. It was something we really wanted to do. People will like it or they won’t. It’s more about creating music that you enjoy.

Bonham: And don’t you get that same flexibility playing with Switchfoot?

Fontamillas: Yeah. They’ve been really good to say, “Jerome, you’ve gotta do your thing. You know what to do.” They give me a lot of freedom.

Join Whole Notes tomorrow for music news featuring Sanctus Real lead singer Matt Hammitt.

Want to read more from Chad? Check out his sports blog “Inspiring Athletes” or go directly to some of his high-profile interviews and features by clicking on the names below:

Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Richard Petty (NASCAR Hall of Fame legend)

Andy Pettitte (Retired New York Yankees pitcher)

Albert Pujols (St. Louis Cardinals)

John Wooden Tribute

Darrell Waltrip (NASCAR Hall of Fame legend)

Michael Chang (Former French Open Champion)

WN Music News: June 20, 2011

posted by Chad Bonham

Fernando Ortega set to release first album in five years

Once a leader within the evangelical worship community, Fernando Ortega has taken a different direction as an Anglican music leader and proponent of a resurgent liturgical movement. This new focus is highlighted in Ortega’s July 12th release Come Down O Love Divine (Stylos Records/Word Distribution), a collection of original instrumental songs and lyrical hymns and his first album in five years.

Come Down O Love Divine is really about a longing for the experience of heaven on earth,” Ortega said in a press statement. “That is how I think we are supposed to approach life, and I think for me, this album is about how every aspect of our lives should be measured out by the narrative of Christ’s life.”

To keep up with the latest on Ortega’s music, visit his official website by clicking here.

Jesus Culture’s Jake Hamilton making big impact with Freedom Calling

The Jesus Culture movement out of Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., has been shaking up the worship community for the past couple of years. On the frontline of that spiritual earthquake is rock-influenced worship artist Jake Hamilton who recently released his sophomore project Freedom Calling. The new album includes 11 original songs and a DVD that features three songs and a 30-minute piece about Hamilton.

“I long to give the Body of Christ a language for reformation and revival through melodies that will be carried on for generations,” Hamilton said in a press release.

For information on Hamilton’s tour dates and his appearances with Jesus Culture, visit the group’s official website here.

Superchick’s Tricia Brock branches out with solo worship debut

Known for her role as lead singer of the quirky but highly melodic pop/rock band Superchick, Tricia Brock is showing another layer of creativity with the week-old release The Road (Inpop Records). Brock’s distinctive voice is evident throughout the record, but the musical background and its lyrical content is more targeted towards worship and adult contemporary listeners.

Brock relied on husband Nick Baumhardt, best known for his work with Stellar Kart, FM Static and Thousand Foot Krutch, to produce the project. Brock’s first single, “You Are My Shepherd” is currently being played on Christian AC stations across the country.

For more details on the new album and Brock’s solo efforts, check out her official website here.

Upcoming album releases (June 21):

Peter Furler – On Fire (Sparrow/EMICMG)
Stuart Townend – The Journey (Kingsway/EMICMG)
Aaron Keyes – Dwell (Kingsway/EMICMG)
Shonlock – Never Odd Or Even (Universal/EMICMG)
The Katinas – Collage (Independent)
August Burns Red – Leveler (Tooth and Nail/EMICMG)
The Martins – New Day (Spring Hill/EMICMG)
The Crimson Armada – Conviction (Razor and Tie/Provident)
These Hearts – Forever Ended Yesterday (Victory Records/Provident)
Ronnie Freeman – Perfect Love (Universal Music/EMICMG)
Danen Kane – Love Is Waiting (Digital Indie Release)
Patrick Paegel – Unfailing Love (Penny’s Gang Records)
Casey Darnell – Coming Alive (North Point Music)
Great Worship Songs Praise Band – The Acoustic Set (Great Worship Songs)
Various artists – EMI Gospel 2011 (EMI Gospel)
Various Artists – Fire It Up (Tooth and Nail Records/EMICMG)
Various Artists – Great Worship Songs For Kids Vol. 5 (Great Worship Songs)
Various Artists – Holy Hip Hop Vol. 11 (Holy Hip Hop)
Various Artists – iWorship @ Home Vol 14 DVD (iWorship)
Various Artists – Time Will Pass You By (Tooth & Nail)

Join Whole Notes tomorrow for an interview with Switchfoot’s Jerome Fontamillas, and coming soon, interviews with Blindside, Royal Tailor, Hillsong United and Burlap To Cashmere.

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